Celebrating Volunteers’ Week

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It’s Volunteers’ Week, so there is no better time to pay tribute to the more than 80 volunteer groups and organisations across Wealden that have been helping households during lockdown.

Councillor Philip Lunn, Wealden Cabinet Member for Community & Public Health said:

They have played an outstanding role in supporting their local communities, making sure people who are self-isolating, either because of a medical condition or due to Covid-19, have the supplies of food and medicine they need.

They have also been there with a friendly word and conversation to help ease the isolation.

They all deserve our heartfelt thanks.

Since the crisis began, the Wealden Community Hub has responded to over 1,000 calls, but many more people have been helped through their local groups.

As lockdown restrictions ease, the Hub and groups will continue to support those who must self-isolate because NHS Test and Trace measures, and those who remain medically vulnerable.

Volunteers’ Week runs from the 1st to the 7th June each year. It is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. Although the coronavirus has stopped many of the things voluntary organisations usually do, the pandemic has shown the importance of volunteering to communities.

Some of the many volunteer groups that have been supporting Wealden households during coronavirus were existing community groups that adapted to the new circumstances, like Rotherfield St Martin that established their Parish Pals initiative and Wealdlink that has been shopping for their regulars.

Others groups were born out of a shared concern for their neighbours.

Supporting Crowborough is one such group that came from nowhere and has been providing groceries, medicine and other support to hundreds of households in and around Crowborough in the past weeks.

It started out from a post on social media by Spencer Miller, who works at the ticket office and soon became a Facebook group.  Using social media, it has enabled people self-isolating to request help, and others – who now had time on their hands because they could no longer work – to volunteer to help.

Over 100 people have volunteered to help provide groceries, deliver medicines, post letters or simply have a chat.

Further deliveries of medicine have been provided by the Friends of Crowborough Hospital. They had a driver and passenger assistant who normally brought people to the hospital’s day centre. Now they are helping deliver prescriptions.

Kirsty Harman, who was an event co-ordinator at a local hotel, has played an important role, co-ordinating the response to email requests and now chairs the group. Other requests come by telephone, word of mouth, Crowborough Town Council or Wealden’s Community Hub.

One local organiser, Town and District Councillor Gareth Owen-Williams said:

We have had very few issues. We have been able to maintain social distancing and keep transactions contactless. Most people were happy to transfer the money to volunteers online for the completed shopping.

Many of the households we have been helping have been self-isolating because they are over 70, so we will be helping them for a number of weeks to come. It becomes a regular visit and many are enjoying the new friendships which are being created. It underlines what a terrific sense of community there is in the town.

Going forward, Supporting Crowborough is talking to other agencies about offering a befriending service for local people.

Pat Bennett one of Supporting Crowborough’s  regular volunteers

Wealden District Council has set up a £38,000 Crisis Fund to cover some of costs that the volunteer groups may have incurred while helping others. Their Community Hub remains in operation. Anyone who is vulnerable or self-isolating and needs support, whether the supply of groceries, medicines or just someone to talk to, can contact the Wealden Community Hub on 01323 443322 for help. Or visit the Community Support page on the Wealden website.

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